Among the great sayings of Yogi Berra (the baseball icon, not to be confused with the cartoon character of a similar name) is one related to a certain restaurant that Yogi grew to find distasteful:
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded,” Yogi said in espousing one of his many nuggets of cockeyed wisdom.
Interestingly, a statement frequently uttered by the Yogi Bear cartoon counterpart to his trusty sidekick also had a food-related theme: “Come on, BooBoo, let’s take that picnic basket before the ranger comes!”
Both Yogis seem to have had one thing in common in preferring a dining experience that doesn’t require a wait.
While I have never played pro baseball or appeared in a cartoon, I do share something in common with those guys in that I have a stern rule against standing in line at a dining establishment. I mean ANY place, I don’t care how good the food is there. At the first sign of this — bodies stretching out the front door and snaking into the parking lot, I will simply go elsewhere.
My philosophy on the matter is there are some things you have no choice but to wait for, or are willing to participate in even if it means being delayed, such as voting in an election. But a meal is not one of them, unless you’re in the middle of the desert and there’s no other restaurant around for 50 miles.
That is one of my three top rules under the heading “Things I Will Not Do.” Among the others is refusing to count how many licks it takes to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop. And an associated rule I live by involves a vow to never camp out for the grand opening of a restaurant.
This, of course, will be an issue next week with Chick-fil-A’s much-awaited opening in Mount Airy. Such events elsewhere have produced huge crowds due to a desire to be one of the first 100 people in line (“adults,” the restaurant chain specifies, which might eliminate me anyway) and win a free meal weekly for the next year.
People are expected to begin assembling at the local restaurant on the eve of Thursday’s grand opening, and camp out overnight in anticipation of its early morning launch.
However, I will not be among them. Nothing against Chick-fil-A, it’s just that I’ve reached a point in life where if crowds of people are involved with something, there’s a red flag. I’m with Yogi Berra in thinking it’s just not worth the trouble to go there.
This comes down to weighing what is to be gained vs. the inconvenience factor, and the net result is that I would NEVER camp out in a parking lot — even if a year’s supply of sirloin steaks or prime rib was at “stake” (pardon the pun).
Simply put, if I want a steak, or a chicken sandwich for that matter, I’ll just go buy one (another trait of reaching a certain point in life).
The way I see it, we consumers are spending big bucks when we eat out, so the experience should be as pleasurable as possible. Having to wrestle with 500 people just for the privilege of reaching a dining room with all the ambiance of an Army mess hall doesn’t qualify as pleasurable.
Unfortunately, this is something folks put up with constantly in Mount Airy, because as far as I know there’s only one public restaurant where you can make a reservation. This means that visiting certain places at peak times requires contending with mob scenes.
Which begs the question: Are these establishments so fantastic, or do they simply win by default since there are not enough choices for consumers?
I would cast my vote for the latter, due to a belief that while our city has many businesses where one can get a great meal at a reasonable price, there needs to be a greater variety.
We seem to have more than our fair share of fast-food and Mexican restaurants, with other ethnic varieties represented as well. Yet one thing I would like to see is additional down-home eateries offering what I call “country boy cooking” — meat and vegetable dishes like Granny used to make.
I’ve also heard people express a desire for other establishments locating in Mount Airy such as Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden and Red Lobster — which we probably should have already.
It must be a matter of some corporate bigwig sitting in an ivory tower somewhere and looking at the tiny dot of Mount Airy on a map with its official population of only 10,000. That’s misleading, of course, since it doesn’t reflect those in the “greater” Mount Airy area, put at about 25,000.
I also have heard police estimates that as many as 100,000 people can be in the city limits during any given day, including those passing through on major highways.
If one of those corporate types would just come here and eyeball all the traffic and mob scenes at existing restaurants, they likely would fall all over themselves to build theirs here as soon as possible. That apparently was the case with Chick-fil-A.
There is no way a Cracker Barrel, for example, would not do well in Mount Airy. The same could be true of the other restaurants I mentioned — so I say, come on down.
And maybe long-suffering consumers won’t be forced to stand in line to get fed, as if they were hogs at a trough.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.